Friday, May 31, 2013

MERIDIAN MINUTE no. 9 ~The Examine~


Entrance to monastery in Arizona.


“Test me, O LORD, and try me,

   examine my heart and my mind,

for your love is ever before me,

   and I walk continually in your truth.”

                                                Psalm 26:2,3

The Examination of Conscience is a practice found in The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.  As a Protestant in my theological doctrinal interpretation of scripture, I was unaware of Catholic writings or other interpretations of the Holy Word.  Because I was hungry for spiritual truth with an insatiable appetite, nothing could satisfy me more than a day spent gleaning truth from God’s Word and reading others who had found similar richness in the study and application of spiritual truths.   

A story happened in my life which used circumstances to broaden the scope of my reading beyond my protestant views.  It was a surprising enterprise.  The discovery of writings that spoke in detail written by people totally surrendered and in love with God amazed me.  I uncovered some rich details of ways God has worked in His saints throughout the ages.  One of these that I read outlined a way to approach God through the use of something he termed spiritual exercises.  The concept made sense to me.  We exercise and eat healthy food if we want to be in good physical condition.  The same is true in the spiritual realm.  The spiritual life is much more than belief and prayer, we must exercise and apply what we think.  Our data base in the spiritual realm must be accessed and used in a proactive way.

What is the Examin?  It is a process that originated with St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) which he wrote and implemented in his life.  He used it to keep himself concerned for his own spiritual growth and his zeal for sharing it.  He expanded on this by incorporating a set of spiritual exercises for participants to complete in a spiritual month-long retreat.  Each participant would have an overseer, their spiritual guide to help facilitate greater understanding. These exercises were designed for those committed to living out a monastic life.  Over time these same concepts were offered in spiritual retreats for the lay person. 
The Examine is like a personal inventory, a review one makes of the day.  A look within at “how you did” in light of the occurrences and your reactions to them.  In 2011, I read three books authored by male Monastics, all written with the intent of explaining and encouraging an understanding of The Spiritual Exercises. I sought to apply some of what I learned that impressed me as something I could use in my own spirit life.  At the conclusion of this undertaking, I wrote out a brief synopsis for my own “examine” on a scrap of paper and put it by my nightstand to review as a practice during the day or at night.  I will share what I jotted down but I am unsure how close it is to the original to give credit where credit is due.

The Examin/Ignatius

1.  Ask God to be with you

2.  Recall events of the day for which you feel grateful

3.  Do a review of the day

4.  Ask forgiveness for any sins

5.  Ask for grace to follow God more closely the following day

“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind, for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth,”  is a verse that encourages the reader to examine their own heart and mind.  When I read this verse during my quiet time with God, it reminded me of The Examin.  It is not an easy task.  We can resist the focus of God on our heart and mind.  The heart is deceptive and the mind is easily confused by errant thoughts.  Closing out the day with a focus on God is a practice that will pay out dividends in the following day and days.  No, I don’t always succeed in remembering to examine my conscience (heart and mind).  I tend to go in spurts.  When I do, it always well worth the time and energy.   

The Examin is simply a meeting, just God and me, talking it over and making the necessary adjustments.

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